Feature LP Review – van der Aa|Time Falling; Massenet|Birmingham|Fremaux; Biber|Rosenkranz-Sonaten

Written by: Rob Pennock

Michel van der Aa – Time Falling

Kate-Miller Heidke (singer), Netherlands Chamber Choir, Michel van der Aa & Thijs de Vlieger

Recorded at Exalto Studios, Haarlem, 2019

Limited edition two 45rpm LPs from timefalling.com

Massenet – Le Cid – ballet music; Scènes Pittoresques; La Vierge – The Last Sleep of the Virgin

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Louis Fremaux

Recorded at the Great Hall of Birmingham University in 1971

Speakers Corner 180gm LP: TWO 350

Biber – Rosenkranz-Sonaten

Eduard Melkus & Alfred Planyavsky (violin), Huguette Dreyfus (cembalo), Lionel Rogg (organ), Karl Scheit (lute), Gerald Sonneck (cello & gambe), Hans-Jürg Lange (baroque flute)

Recorded at Studio Wien-Film, Rosenhügel, Vienna in March 1967
Analogphonic 2 x 180gm LPs: LP43166

Time Falling is the fêted Dutch composer Michel van der Aa’s first venture into Indie-pop, inspired by the likes of Borges and Lorca. Many of the tracks are reflective, with echoes of Palestrina, mood and church music, and throughout there is syncopation, cross-rhythms, counterpoint, beautifully layered textures, the dynamic range is extended at mezzo forte and below, but subdued above it, and Kate-Miller Heidke is an integral part of the image as opposed to a lead-singer. One or two things for me don’t quite work. In track 2 the music doesn’t match the Queen of the Night’s words. The same happens in I Think of Fire, which is about a woman hovering between life and death after a car crash; the tempo is too fast, the rhythm too insistent, the expression too smooth to convey this. Nonetheless, this is a major album, which should appeal to classical as well as Indie fans.

The album was cut from 24/96 masters, and the 45rpm cutting speed helps clarity and definition and you get a far more vibrant soundstage with plenty of body. The presentation is superb, with a vibrant gatefold sleeve housing one black and one white LP, a full size insert with pictures, the lyrics, and production information are on the fold-out.

The Massenet features brilliant performances by an orchestra Louis Fremaux transformed into a world-class band. Fremaux loved Massenet, and in the seven dances from Le Cid the way he springs the rhythms, moulds the wonderful melodies, delineates line and texture and drives home climaxes is a joy to hear. And one can say much the same about the equally gorgeous Scènes Pittoresque and The Last Sleep of the Virgin.

There are two versions of the LP, the Quadraphonic and the standard two channel one you get here, with a reverberant acoustic, pretty forward overall balance, loads of presence and projection, crashing timpani, blaring brass and woodwind that paradoxically float in a fixed space. It’s all very unnatural, but as hi-fi sound it’s brilliant, and the Speakers Corner remastering has even more impact than the original.

Heinrich Biber’s Rosary Sonatas are unusual in that only in the first of the fifteen pieces and the final solo Passacaglia is the violin tuned in standard fifths, and so concert performances are rare, although the explosion of interest in early music has spawned numerous recordings, so where does this 1968 double album stand stylistically? Well everything is beautifully crafted, the tempos are never extreme, the rhythms sculpted, but flexible, Melkus and his companions never utter an ugly sound and their quiet eloquence is highly compelling.  Archiv were hardly Decca, so what you hear is pleasant sound with a middle-distance overall balance and some sense of depth within a low reverberation acoustic. Clarity and definition are reasonable and the overall effect is warmly homogenous, especially when compared to the horrible CDs and MP3 downloads that are available, while the superb booklet contains a list of each of the Sonatas tuning and instrumentation.

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